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Contradictions emerge during Opry arson trial
Updated on: 01.29.14

On the witness stand Tuesday, former Little Nashville Opry owner Esther Hamilton stated that neither she nor the country music venue were in financial trouble.

“I never owed a dime when the Opry burned,” she said.

On Wednesday, Alan Strange, a forensic auditor with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) testified otherwise.

He said Hamilton and the Opry owed roughly $1.5 million in short- and long-term loans and operating expenses such as utilities, insurance and performer fees on Sept. 19, 2009. That was the day someone poured an ignitable liquid on and near the Opry stage and lit it on fire.

At the same time, the five Opry banking accounts contained a total of about $8,500, according to the ATF.

On day five of testimony, Prosecutor Jim Oliver focused on the gambling habits of Hamilton and the person she called her best friend, 77-year-old James D. Bowyer.

Bowyer is the former Opry business manager on trial for allegedly starting the fire that destroyed the Opry.

Oliver asked Strange to explain his findings from four Indiana casinos. The ATF officer said records from 2005 to 2009 show that Hamilton visited the casinos on 816 days. She spent $4.2 million and lost $152,000.

During the same time frame, Bowyer lost $163,000, while betting $1.7 million during 650 visits, according to Strange.

Hamilton testified that Bowyer did not gamble. She added that she gambled just “a couple times a month” when she got the chance.

Throughout the trial, defense attorney John Boren asked multiple witnesses if they were aware that Hamilton suffered a stroke in May 2013. Those who knew about the stroke indicated that the effects of it continue to linger.

On cross examination of Strange, Boren wanted to know if his investigation showed any evidence that Bowyer owned stock in Little Nashville Enterprises or contracted with the corporation that owned the Opry. Strange answered no to both matters.

Boren got Strange to say that the burning of the Opry differed in outcome from the sale of the Opry. A sale would have resulted in Bowyer receiving roughly $300,000, according to four promissory notes Bowyer wrote that were salvaged from the fire debris.

Strange also agreed that the Opry could have been rebuilt from the more than $3 million in insurance proceeds if the claim had been paid out.

The insurance money was never awarded. A judge ruled in favor of the insurance company because more than 50 percent of the sprinkler system had been dismantled, according to court records.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Oliver said he plans to rest the state’s side of the case by midday.

Read more in the Feb. 5 issue of the Brown County Democrat.

Obituaries
See Full List »

Timothy White, 52, Brown County
  Husband of Loretta (Meredith) White of Brown County

Curtis A. Martin, 35, Columbus
  Employee of Always Inn in Nashville

Anna E. Hancher, 89, Elizabethtown
  Mother of Betty (Jerry) Bell and Lila (Eric) Wedan, both of Brown County

  • April 23
    Election Board
    9:30 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 23
    Board of Zoning Appeals
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 23
    BCHS sports for Wednesday
    5 p.m. Brown County High School, Providence Jr./Sr. HS
  • April 23
    Live music at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • April 23
    BC Parks & Rec. Board
    5:15 p.m. BC Parks & Rec. Office, 1001 Deer Run Lane
  • April 24
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • April 24
    'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • April 24
    Brown County/ Purdue Extension Board
    7 p.m. Extension Office, 802 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • April 24
    BCHS sports for Thursday
    4:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Brown County High School
  • April 24
    Rotary Club
    7:15 a.m. Artist Colony Inn, 105 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 25
    Live music at sports bar
    7 to 9 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • April 25
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 25
    Friends of the library plant sale
    3 to 6 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • April 25
    Game night at dance barn
    6 to 10 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • April 25
    Earth Day at Bean Blossom farmers market
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, State roads 135 North and 45, Bean Blossom
  • April 25
    Live music at Out of the Ordinary
    7 to 10 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 25
    Congressman Young to meet at Nashville Town Hall
    10 to 11 a.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • April 25
    'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • April 25
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 25
    Morel mushroom festival at Bill Monroe
    10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 25
    Live music at the Pine Room
    10:45 a.m., 1 p.m. 1008 McLary Road and Deer Run Park
  • April 25
    18th Girlfriend rummage sale at Brown County Inn
    8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Brown County Inn, 51 State Road 46 East
  • April 26
    Arbor Day celebration at Brown County IGA gazebo
    10 a.m. to noon Brown County IGA, 30 Hawthorne Drive
  • April 26
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • April 26
    Live band at dance barn
    6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • April 26
    Dance lessons at Out of the Ordinary
    7:30 p.m., 8 p.m. to midnight Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 26
    Friends of the library plant sale
    9 a.m. to noon Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • April 26
    Plant sale at BCSP Nature Center
    9 a.m. until sold out Brown County State Park Nature Center
  • April 26
    Harpeth Rising band at The Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • April 26
    Hope for Hearts Farm free women's extravaganza
    9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hope For Hearts Farm, 1005 State Road 45, Bean Blossom
  • April 26
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 26
    Morel mushroom festival at Bill Monroe
    10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 27
    Brown County Railroad gallery
    1-4 p.m. Three Story Hill at State Road 135 N., Fruitdale
  • April 27
    'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • April 27
    Morel mushroom festival at Bill Monroe
    10 a.m. to noon Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 28
    BC Alcoholic Beverage Board public hearing
    11 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 28
    Helmsburg Sewage Board
    7 p.m. B.C. Community Church Annex, 2370 Main St., Helmsburg
  • April 28
    B.C. Board of Health executive session
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 29
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • May 1
    CSCD Ecology Commission
    7 p.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • May 1
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 1
    Brown County Schools Board of Trustees
    3 p.m., 6 p.m. Helmsburg Elementary, 5378 Helmsburg Road
  • May 1
    Nashville Town Council
    6:30 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • May 2
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 2
    Live band at 19th Hole sports bar
    6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • May 2
    Live jazz at Out of the Ordinary
    7 to 10 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 2
    'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • May 3
    Spring Blossom Parade
    11 a.m. Downtown Nashville
  • May 3
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • May 3
    Morel mushroom fest, sale planned at BCSP Nature Center
    10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Brown County State Park Nature Center
  • May 3
    Live band at 19th Hole sports bar
    8 to 11 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • May 4
    Brown County Railroad gallery
    1 to 4 p.m. 18 W. Three Story Hill (at State Road 135 N.) Fruitdale
  • May 4
    Children can read to therapy dogs at the library
    2 to 3:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • May 5
    Nashville Redevelopment Commission
    4:30 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • May 5
    B.C. 4-H Council
    7 p.m. 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • May 5
    Gnaw Bone Sewage District
    5:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • May 6
    Government offices CLOSED for elections
  • May 6
    CSCD Building Commission
    7 p.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • May 6
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • May 7
    Nashville Main Street Committee
    9:30 a.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • May 7
    Brown County Commissioners
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • May 7
    BC SWCD
    6:30 p.m. SWCD Office, 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • May 8
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 9
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 10
    Store to host bike blessing, open house
    10 a.m. to 5 p.m. House of Thunder, 4413 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 10
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • May 10
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • May 11
    Brown County Railroad gallery
    1 to 4 p.m. 18 W. Three Story Hill (at State Road 135 N.) Fruitdale
  • May 13
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • May 14
    Thrive Alliance Board of Directors
    3:30 to 5 p.m. ACSSCI main office conference room, 1531 13th St., Suite G900, Columbus
  • May 15
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 16
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 17
    Late night dancing at Out of the Ordinary
    9 p.m. to midnight Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 18
    Humane society Dawg Gone Walk & Fiesta
    1 to 3:30 p.m. Deer Run Park
  • May 22
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 27
    Brown County Area Plan Commission
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • May 29
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • June 14
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road